In this instalment, we will be looking the heritage of this Little Red Dot – Singapore. Singapore may be a young nation of 50 years, we do have deep cultures and heritage that we would like to safe guard. As such, the government has created various ethnic enclaves – Little India, Chinatown, Geylang Serai, Kampong Glam and Katong.
Little India is the hub of Singapore’s Indian community. Stepping into Little India, you’ll be welcomed by the strong, heady scents of spices and jasmine garlands, as well as an extensive display of silverware, brassware, wood carvings and colorful silk saris. Pick up costume jewelry and incense. Get a temporary Henna tattoo. Order a cup of hand-pulled tea known as “Teh Tarik” – and watch as black tea is adroitly poured back and forth repeatedly between two vessels to a height.
In the 1800s, people had to collect fresh water from the wells using carts pulled by bullock carts [fresh water from wells was distributed via bullock carts], thus giving birth to Chinatown’s local name, Niu Che Shui (Bullock Cart Water). Chinatown is divided into four main districts – Kreta Ayer, Telok Ayer, Tanjong Pagar and Bukit Pasoh. Chinatown is not about all things Chinese though. Mosques and Hindu temples sitting in the midst of Chinatown are testament to Singapore’s racial harmony and religious tolerance.
Malays are the native inhabitants of Singapore, and Geylang Serai is the focal point of the local Malay community. Geylang Serai, also known to most as Malay Village, boasts the good old “Kampung Days”. In addition, traditional Malay cuisine, goods, and arts and craft are available in modern restaurants and shops.
The main attraction of Kampong Glam must be the Masjid Sultan, or the Sultan Mosque. Featuring a golden dome, the Masjid Sultan is the largest mosque in Singapore, with a capacity to hold up to 5,000 Muslims for prayers. Also in Kampong Glam is Arab Street, a place that used to specialize in selling songkok (Muslim men’s headgear), the holy Quran, prayer mats and textiles. Now, it is also a fashion designer’s heaven as it sells glittery and fashionable items ranging from the finest lace to gorgeous silk.
A quiet residential area formerly dominated by wealthy Peranakan (Straits Chinese) families, many of the older Peranakan homes in Katong, once seaside villas, give this charming area its distinctive character. Visitors can expect to drool over homemade Peranakan cuisine and coo over colourful Nonya kebayas (traditional dress of female Peranakans), beaded slippers and exquisite handbags.
If you are interested to know more about our Singapore Heritage, you may wish to visit the website of Singapore Heritage Board. There, you will also be able to find some heritage trails that you could explore; maps and mobile apps are also available for download to aid your adventure.